[python-uk] The BBC and Python

Nicholas Tollervey ntoll at ntoll.org
Fri Oct 7 12:11:45 CEST 2011

Hey Folks,

It has been brought to my attention that the BBC *are* actually making
moves in the area of programming in schools (viz. what happened at

I've copied an email that was forwarded to me and I think it'd be useful
for the UK Python community to engage with these guys. I'm certainly
going to respond and I know that there are many people on this list who
have valuable experience and knowledge to share.

It's almost lunch time. If you're at a loose end over your
sandwich-break then why not reply rather than browse Slashdot..? :-P

All the best,


From: Keri Facer <K.Facer at mmu.ac.uk>
> Date: 6 October 2011 11:54:36 GMT+01:00
> To: Keri Facer <K.Facer at mmu.ac.uk>
> Subject: 'BBC Micro' Project - 

> Hi all 
> Thanks for expressing an interest in informing a possible new BBC
> Micro Project and thanks to all of you for the comments you have
> already sent - apologies for the group reply, but your help with the
> following would be very much appreciated!
> Best wishes
> Keri 
> Invitation to contribute
> The BBC is exploring the possibility of developing a new ‘BBC Micro’
> project to encourage an interest amongst young people in computers,
> computational thinking and computer science. Manchester Metropolitan
> University is working with the BBC to draw on the views of teachers,
> lecturers, computer scientists, programmers and others with an
> interest in computational thinking in the UK today. We would
> appreciate your assistance in helping to inform the early stages of
> this process. 
> First, a bit of background: 
> In the early 1980s, the BBC started what became known as the BBC
> Computer Literacy Project in response to predictions of a coming
> microcomputer revolution and its likely future impacts on UK economy
> and society. The BBC based its project around a computer and
> programming language capable of being used to perform various tasks
> which would be demonstrated in a TV series The Computer Programme. The
> list of topics in the TV programme included graphics, programming,
> sound and music, controlling external hardware, artificial
> intelligence and teletext The computer selected was the Acorn Proton,
> which was then re-badged the BBC Micro. The government funded the
> purchase and distribution of 12,000 of the computers to UK schools for
> use alongside the TV programme. In turn this stimulated a significant
> growth in domestic use of the Micro.
> Today, there is criticism of the ICT curriculum and the teaching of
> programming (or computational thinking) in schools. The Royal Society,
> amongst others, believe that design and delivery of ICT and computer
> science curricula in schools is so poor that students’ understanding
> and enjoyment of the subject is severely limited. In response to this
> the BBC is exploring the possibility of developing a project with the
> specific purpose of encouraging an interest in computers, computer
> science and computer programming amongst young people. 
> We would like to know your views on what the BBC could do in this
> area. In particular, what you would see as the desirable equivalent of
> the BBC Micro and The Computer Programme today? What technologies and
> processes, what tools and skills would such a project need to
> develop?  In particular, we would appreciate answers to the specific
> questions below 
> (NB, we use the term computational thinking rather than computer
> science, programming, or ICT skills because we don’t want to assume
> one particular view of what is important in this area. That, indeed,
> is what we want your views on). 
> Key questions
>       * What aspects of computational thinking (e.g. understanding how
>         ‘computers think/work’, using programming languages,
>         understanding systems thinking or other issues) should a BBC
>         Micro 2.0 project focus on? What do you think people should be
>         able to learn to do with computers today? Why? 
>       * What are the best ways to support and encourage those young
>         people (aged 9-14) with an interest in this area, to develop
>         their interest and skills in computational thinking ? Can you
>         suggest any examples of resources or activities that you know
>         of? 
>       *  What are the best ways to support and encourage young people
>         (aged 9-14) with other intereststo develop an interest in and
>         understanding of computational thinking? Can you suggest any
>         examples of resources or activities that you know of? 
>       *  What are the key obstacles to learning computational thinking
>         and how might these best be overcome? 
>       *  If you were to make hardware available to schools in the same
>         way as the BBC Micro in 1981, what sorts of hardware would you
>         think was essential to develop the skills and understanding
>         needed? 
>       * If you were designing a tv programme today that sought to have
>         the same effect as The Computer Programme in stimulating
>         interest in the most important new area of technological
>         development, what area would you expect it to address and what
>         topics would you expect it to cover? Would it still be in the
>         field of computer science? What areas? 
>       * Do you know of any projects, resources and activities that
>         would be examples that this project could learn from? 
>       *  Do you have any other comments on the idea of a new BBC Micro
>         project? 
> Thank you for your time and your help  – do let us know if you’d like
> to be kept updated if there are further developments.
> Keri Facer (MMU)
> Howard Baker (BBC)
> Nicola Whitton (MMU) 
> Keri Facer
> Professor of Education
> Education and Social Research Institute
> Manchester Metropolitan University
> 799 Wilmslow Road
> Manchester
> M20 2RR
> Tel: 0161 247 2412
> Email: k.facer at mmu.ac.uk
> Twitter: #kerileef
> "Before acting on this email or opening any attachments you should
> read the Manchester Metropolitan University email disclaimer available
> on its website http://www.mmu.ac.uk/emaildisclaimer "
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